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Naish, Catherine (1759–1772)

Naish, Catherine (Katherine)

St Mary-le-Strand, London; upholder and chairmaker (fl.1759–72)

Naish was a noted supplier of furniture to the Royal family. The earliest known commission was a set of eight mahogany back stools with compass fronts and tops at 15s each for Prince William's House in Leicester Square. These were supplied in 1759, the year she succeeded her father, Henry Williams, to the business and also took over the position of ‘Royal Joyner and Chair maker’ for thirteen years, formerly held by her father.

In 1760 Naish provided a large state cradle with a canopy top. This had ‘carved ornaments to clip each corner and round the bottom and top, and up the front of the head with a crown and plume of feathers for the top and Lions heads at each end of the rockers and gilt in burnished gold & two pairs of neat chased handles’. 

For the Coronation of King George III and Queen Charlotte in Westminster Abbey on 22 September 1761, Naish supplied the two thrones with footstools at a cost of £36 per throne and footstools; the thrones now at Chatsworth (illus.Furniture History (1989), p. 78). Also, eight walnut ‘State Chairs’ with ‘large Scrole Elbows’ and matching footstools, which were carved by Naish and then upholstered by Vile and Cobb; Naish charged £2 5s for each of these chairs and 10s for each footstool.

She also fitted mouldings up the back and sides on St Edward’s Chair, which was used for the actual coronation, at a cost of £1 and supplied for this ‘a very rich Carved Footstool... with Lyons Paws &c. Gilt all over’ for £6 10s. In the quarter leading up to Michaelmas 1761 she further invoiced for ‘a Large State Chair richly Carv’d with Lions Paws & Lions faces on the knees, with 2 Boys at the Top supporting a Crown, & a Scepter in one of their Hands, the Rails & Elbows with flowers, Leaves, Scroles &c all Gilt in Burnished Gold’ at £46 for the occasion of George III’s first speech to the House of Lords on 6 November 1761. The matching footstool cost £7 10s, and the two High Stools ‘one to stand on Each side of the Throne’ a further £16 10s each. This ensemble was placed under a ‘Large State Canopy with a Cover’d Tester and cornices with Open Pediments...with a Large truss in each Pediment & a Rich Carv’d Crown in the front Gilt in Burnish’d Gold’ for which Naish charged £52 with a further £12 for ironwork and £28 10s for gilt rods. One of the high stools was in 2007 at Chicheley Hall, the other is at Grimsthorpe (illus. Furniture History (1989), p. 79). For the Prince’s Chamber at the Houses of Parliament, Naish provided the canopy and ironwork for £24 and a ‘Large Wallnuttree State Chair Carv’d with a Scrole & leaf on the feet & Elbows the Top of the Back Carv’d with a Shell & the Craving Gilt’ to stand below it for £24, together with a matching footstool (£4) and a pair of high stools (£7 each) (all illus. Furniture History (1989), pp. 79, 80).

In 1764 Naish supplied the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s House in Downing Street with venetian blinds ‘like some that are at the Admiralty Office to throw the light either in or out the top lath box’d all up very Close and neat, all painted Green and Green Silk lines and Steps to do’. Three years later, in 1764 for the Great Drawing Room, St James's Palace a ‘large four-post mahogany State Bedstead with carved headboard, being a scroll supporting a crown and other elaborate decorations, for the Queen to sit up in’ was supplied at a cost of £205. For Buckingham House in 1767 a set of ‘Twelve very neat Mahogany Hall chairs with Hollow Seats and open Backs and cross stretchers’ were provided for the hall at £2 5s each. A number of these chairs survive (illustrated below).

Naish hall chair
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
Royal Collection
One from a set of mahogany hall chairs made for the Hall of Buckingham House in 1766 by Katherine Naish and the Saloon at Kew in 1773 by John Russell (RCIN 89). Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023

For the Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace commissions Naish was provided with drawings by the upholsterer William France which had been approved by the King. Other commissions (noted in TNA, LC accounts) included a walnut settee the feet carved with Lions’ paws and leaves on the Knees to Match some chairs’, supplied in 1765 at a cost of £4 10s, and a mahogany sofa on castors with four straight legs in 1772 costing £3 10s. Split wicker cradles for the royal children were also invoiced at £13 2s each.

The only other known commissions are to be noted in the Strathmore papers in respect of Gibside, Co. Durham. In 1761 a ‘Mr Nance’ was paid through the bankers Child & Co. for ‘two Moulding Desert Frames, Water Gilding ditto, two Silver'd Glasses for ditto, bought in London June last’. Despite the error in the name this commission was probably executed by Catherine Naish.

Catherine Naish died early in 1772, or possibly the year before because a receipt submitted in 1772 was in the name of her executors.

Sources: DEFM; Hugh Roberts, ‘Royal Thrones, 1760-1840’, Furniture History (1989); Annabel Westman, ‘Eighteenth-Century Window Blinds at Audley End: A Recent Discovery’,Furniture History (1997); Hugh Roberts, ‘Thrones Revisited’, Furniture History (2007).

The original entry from Dictionary of English Furniture Makers, 1660-1840 can be found at British History Online.